NEW YORK DECEMBER 19 – The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday voted to renew cross-border aid deliveries to Syria’s opposition-held areas for one year, but Russia abstained, along with China and Bolivia, and said the relief operation should wind down.
Russia had demanded changes to the aid operation that has allowed since 2014 convoys to cross into Syria from Turkey and Jordan without the approval of the Assad regime in Damascus. Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov argued that the situation in Syria had “changed radically” over the past three years and that cross-border aid was “a legacy of the past.”
“We think it is important to gradually draw down this rudimentary scheme which has worked for Syria’s division,” said Safronkov. The resolution put forward by Egypt, Japan and Sweden was adopted by a vote of 12 in favor. The 15-member Council called on Syrian authorities “to expeditiously respond to all requests for cross-line deliveries submitted by the UN and its implementing partners and to give such requests positive consideration.”
The use of cross-line routes was first authorized by the Council in July 2014 through a resolution that also tasked the UN with monitoring the loading of the aid consignments as well as their openings, such as by customs officials, to confirm the humanitarian nature of these relief consignments. The renewal today authorizes the cross-border aid deliveries as well as the monitoring of consignments until 10 January 2019.
“We have voted in favour of the 2393 Resolution because it authorizes the continuation of lifesaving cross-border assistance in Syria. Such activities continue to be irreplaceable by other modalities of assistance and indispensable for the survival of civilians living in areas serviced by them”, the Italian Deputy Permanent Representative Inigo Lambertini told the Council, stressing the importance that the authorization renewal for these operation for a period of 12 months will give both beneficiaries and humanitarian actors a predictable and sustained time horizon going forward. “Given the volatility of the situation in Syria and continuing high levels of humanitarian needs, such a time frame represents the necessary minimum extension for a meaningful renewal of the measure authorized by this resolution”, Lambertini said.
Italy would have preferred to see in this resolution a clear commitment, not only to a review of the cross-border operation, but also to a review of the cross-line operations and the reasons of repeated failures to deliver. “The true limit of humanitarian access in Syria lies with the persistently low level of cross-line deliveries to rebel-held areas of the country that are not reached by cross-border assistance. Sadly, several previous resolutions of this Council, regarding the obligation of timely, unhindered and unfettered access for humanitarian aid have not been adequately implemented, and this, notably, due to the obstacles posed by the Syrian regime. This has led to the humanitarian tragedies we have heard of month by month in this Chamber”, Lambertini said pointing to the situation in Eastern Ghouta, where the civilian population, despite a de-escalation agreement, is being besieged and bombed by the regime.
“It is here that – while humanitarian convoys are prevented from reaching those in need – the staples that enter Ghouta through commercial flows have seen price increases of up to tenfold, lining the pockets of those who control such flows. It is here that children and women die due to lack of medications and the regime’s denial to their urgent evacuation to hospitals a few kilometers away”, said Lambertini.
More than 13 million people need humanitarian aid in Syria, now in its seventh year of war. Cross-border aid reaches one million Syrians per month, on average, according to U.N. aid officials. The adoption of the resolution extending the aid operation came after Russia used its veto power to block the renewal of a chemical weapons investigation, triggering a major clash at the council among big powers over Syria. Russia has used its veto 11 times at the council to thwart action directed at its Syrian ally. (@OnuItalia).